[EXCERPT] Project TERMES
Termites as models of innovative construction methods
Really! This page does have something to do with termites on Mars
We are part of a multinational team of entomologists, engineers and computer scientists (Project TERMES), based in the laboratory of Dr Rupert Soar, of the Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Loughborough University in Nottinghamshire in the UK. TERMES is exploring how termites can serve as models for adaptive construction in harsh environments (like Mars). One possible application: rather than send habitations to Mars for Mars colonists to live in, send up robotic termites that will build habitations for them from existing materials on site, and automatically adjust the architecture as the needs evolve.
Project TERMES' web site is, unfortunately, still under construction. So come back and visit to see new developments!
Modeling the Collective Building of Complex Architectures
in Social Insects with Lattice Swarms
[Excerpt from Abstract]
In this paper we present a formal model of distributed building inspired by wasp colonies. We characterize a set of distributed stigmergic algorithms that allow a swarm of simple agents to build coherent nest-like structures. The agents that constitute the swarm of builders move randomly on a 3D-lattice and can deposit elementary bricks. The agents do not communicate, have no global representation of the architecture they are building, do not possess any plan or blueprint and they can only perceive the local configuration of matter surrounding them. Only a few of these configurations are stimulating, that is, trigger a building action. The aim of this paper is not to prove that this model is an accurate model of how wasps behave, but rather to show (i) that such behavioral algorithms can produce coherent biological-like architectures, (ii) that these architectures, if they are to be generated with these behavioral algorithms, require algorithms with specific ╬coordination╠ properties, and (iii) finally that algorithms possessing these specific properties produce in turn only very specific, coherent architectures. In effect, we found an empirical one-to-one correspondence between biological-like architectures and ╬coordinated algorithms╠. Coordinated algorithms rely on a partition of the shape to be built into modular subshapes: if a swarm of agents is to build a given coherent architecture, the shape has to be decomposed into a finite number of building steps, with the necessary condition that the local stimulating configurations that are created at a given stage differ from those created at a previous or a forthcoming builing stage so as to avoid the deorganization of the whole building activity. Moreover, shapes generated with non-coordinated algorithms, for instance when stimulating configurations corresponding to the subshapes overlap and may subsequently affect the overall building process, are unstable, and the same given rule table will produce very dissimilar architecture in different simulations. Finally, architectures generated under such conditions were found not to resemble any known biological architecture. We believe that our study constitutes a first step towards a deeper understanding of the origins of natural shapes in terms of the logical constraints that may have affected the evolutionary path.
Swarm Intelligence: An Interview with Eric Bonabeau
Eric Bonabeau, Ph.D, a keynote speaker at the upcoming Emerging Technology conference, is a leader in the field of swarm intelligence and has focused on applying these concepts to real world problems such as factory scheduling and telecommunications routing. The concept itself is borrowed from nature; in this interview, that's where the conversation begins, with ants and other social insects. Dr. Bonabeau takes us from his childhood nightmares of carnivorous wasps to applying the theories of swarm intelligence to solving real problems in the business world.